B.C. pals run 5K together a year after one donated a kidney to keep the other alive

·2 min read
Vancouver actor, Michael Teigen, left, had not been in touch with his old friend, Stephen Gillis, right, for awhile when he learned he needed a kidney transplant. One year ago, the pair were wearing hospital gowns and undergoing surgery and on Thursday, the duo donned sneakers and clocked five kilometres around a Vancouver track.
Vancouver actor, Michael Teigen, left, had not been in touch with his old friend, Stephen Gillis, right, for awhile when he learned he needed a kidney transplant. One year ago, the pair were wearing hospital gowns and undergoing surgery and on Thursday, the duo donned sneakers and clocked five kilometres around a Vancouver track.

(Mike Zimmer/CBC - image credit)

"I'm the one."

When Michael Teigen uttered those three words to his old friend Stephen Gillis a couple of years ago it changed their lives forever and, in Gillis's case, saved his.

In 2018, Gillis, a Vancouver minor hockey coach was told he needed a kidney transplant. His players put out a video plea for donors in 2019 that was seen by his old friend Teigen.

After discovering he was an appropriate donor match, Teigen surprised Gillis with the news and the pair underwent successful transplant surgery on Feb.18 2020.

One year to the date, the two men are healthy, happy and hitting a Vancouver track together to advocate for early COVID vaccinations for dialysis patients by running five kilometres.

Vancouver Theatresports/Facebook
Vancouver Theatresports/Facebook

Victory laps

"Once you say something on TV or radio you gotta do it," said Gillis with a chuckle on CBC's The Early Edition Thursday morning shortly before the 10 a.m. run.

Since the life-saving surgery, the duo have given a few local media interviews and Gillis said he may have flippantly thrown around the idea of tackling the track once or twice while the spotlight was on.

"I don't run at all," he said with a bit of nervous laughter before he and Teigen headed to Sir Winston Churchill Secondary to do just that.

Mike Zimmer/CBC
Mike Zimmer/CBC

But for Gillis, who was receiving hemodialysis treatments three days a week at Vancouver General Hospital before his transplant, the reason for the run is worth it.

"They are very, very vulnerable," said Gillis about COVID-19 for dialysis patients who are not only immune compromised but are also regularly having to go to hospitals for their procedures during the pandemic.

He says he hopes the run brings the needs of this group to the attention of the B.C. government so they can be prioritized for vaccine, along with the elderly.

Mike Zimmer/CBC
Mike Zimmer/CBC

Gillis said he also hopes by doing it he is setting a positive example for his players and other transplant patients.

Teigen is also setting the bar high when it comes to positive examples, and he has the stomach scars to prove it.

"It just seemed like a natural easy-peasy thing to do," said Teigen, about undergoing the surgery to save his friend.

Mike Zimmer/CBC
Mike Zimmer/CBC

Teigen said prior to the operation, he had never gone through a gauntlet of medical tests or been in the hospital before but mentally, he never wavered.

When asked if he ever regretted his decision, Teigen did not hesitate to respond: "Not one second."

Listen | Hear the two friends talk about their journey together: